August 4, 2010 – As we mark the 48th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s arrest today, we would like to reiterate our call that to acknowledge the sacrifices of all those who brought about freedom in our country, people should try to “make every day a Mandela Day”.
Initiated in July 2009 and adopted four months later by the United Nations as Nelson Mandela International Day, 18 July, Mr Mandela’s birthday is an opportunity for all of us to do some good for those less fortunate. The Nelson Mandela Foundation hopes this is the beginning of a social movement to do good every day.
South Africa’s most wanted man, Mr Mandela was arrested soon after returning from a six-month clandestine trip through Africa and to London where he garnered support for the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe. He also received military training at Oujda in Morocco by Algerian freedom fighters and by Ethiopian forces outside Addis Ababa.
At the end of his trip he was collected in Botswana by fellow activist Cecil Williams. After Mr Mandela reported on his trip to comrades in KwaZulu-Natal, and was returning to Johannesburg on Sunday, 5 August, 1962, with Williams, they were stopped by the police and Mr Mandela was taken into custody.
He was charged with leaving the country without a passport and inciting workers to strike. He went on trial at the Old Synagogue in Pretoria on 15 October, 1962.
The charges related to him leaving the country without a passport in January, 1962, and calling on workers to strike on 29, 30 and 31 May 1961, against the proclamation of South Africa as a republic. This action followed two unanswered letters to Prime Minister HF Verwoerd in which Mr Mandela called on him to establish a non-racial National Convention to draw up a new constitution for South Africa.
In what became known as his “Black man in a white man’s court” speech, Mr Mandela said: “Whatever sentence Your Worship sees fit to impose upon me for the crime for which I have been convicted before this court, may it rest assured that when my sentence has been completed I will still be moved, as men are always moved, by their consciences; I will still be moved by my dislike of the race discrimination against my people when I come out from serving my sentence, to take up again, as best I can, the struggle for the removal of those injustices until they are finally abolished once and for all.”
On 7 November he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
Williams left the country and died in England in 1979.
Initially held in Pretoria, Mr Mandela was moved to Robben Island in May 1963 and then suddenly returned to Pretoria. Some weeks later the police raided Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia and arrested his comrades. They stood trial for sabotage in what became known as the “Rivonia Trial” and on 11 June, 1964, Mr Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi were convicted. The next day they were all sentenced to life imprisonment. All were sent to Robben Island except Denis Goldberg, who could not be held there because he was white.
Goldberg was released in 1985; Mbeki in 1987; Sisulu; Kathrada; Mlangeni; Mhlaba and Motsoaledi in 1989. Mr Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in 1990 after 27 years, six months and five days.
To view Mr Mandela’s original Warrant of Committal, please visit here.